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Role of Late Winter–Spring Wind Influencing Summer Hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay

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Abstract

We examined the processes influencing summer hypoxia in the mainstem portion of Chesapeake Bay. The analysis was based on the Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program data collected between 1985 and 2007. Self-organizing map (SOM) analysis indicates that bottom water dissolved oxygen (DO) starts to be depleted in the upper mesohaline area during late spring, and hypoxia expands down-estuary by early summer. The seasonal hypoxia in the bay appears to be related to multiple variables, (e.g., river discharge, nutrient loading, stratification, phytoplankton biomass, and wind condition), but most of them are intercorrelated. The winter–spring Susquehanna River flow contributes to not only spring–summer buoyancy effects on estuarine circulation dynamics but also nutrient loading from the land-promoting phytoplankton growth. In addition, we found that summer hypoxia is significantly correlated with the late winter–spring (February–April) northeasterly–southwesterly (NE–SW) wind. Based on winter–spring (January–May) conditions, a predictive tool was developed to forecast summer (June–August) hypoxia using river discharge and NE–SW wind. We hypothesized that the late winter–spring wind pattern may affect the transport of spring bloom biomass to the western shoal or the deep channel of the bay that either alleviates or increases the summer hypoxic volume in the midbay region, respectively. To examine this hypothesis, residual flow fields were analyzed using a hydrodynamic ocean model (Regional Ocean Modeling System; ROMS) between 2000 and 2003, two hydrologically similar years but years with different wind conditions during the spring bloom period. Simulation model results suggest that relatively larger amounts of organic matter could be transported into the deep channel in 2003 (severe hypoxia; frequent northeasterly wind) than 2000 (moderate hypoxia; frequent southwesterly wind).

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Acknowledgments

We thank Dr. Kmazima M. M. Lwiza for valuable discussions and two anonymous reviewers for thoughtful comments. We also thank Jeremy Testa and Dong-Yoon Lee for helpful suggestions. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Coastal Hypoxia Research Program (NA07NOS4780191) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (K00B3400004 RAT-5/12-376). This article is contribution number 4726 of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

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Correspondence to Younjoo J. Lee.

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Lee, Y.J., Boynton, W.R., Li, M. et al. Role of Late Winter–Spring Wind Influencing Summer Hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries and Coasts 36, 683–696 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-013-9592-5

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